Rare marbles of value to collectors tend to fall into two distinct categories best described as modern and primitive. Modern marbles which are of value to collectors are often hand crafted by artists and can exceed five inches in diameter. Primitive marbles, on the other hand, are those marbles manufactured either by hand or by machine previous to the 1960s. Among the most valuable marbles are those which were manufactured in Akron, Ohio, or which were hand-crafted in Europe in the late 1800s.
Latticinio swirl marbles date to the 1900s and were produced in Italy, although some originated in Germany. The indicative trait of Latticinio Swirl marbles is the swirl pattern encapsulated within the glass. In all cases, swirls of brilliant color twist from one hemisphere to the opposite hemisphere. These marbles can be quite valuable to collectors, even in less than perfect condition due to their beauty and the fact that they were handmade in early years. Some handmade Latticinio Swirl marbles are still being hand-crafted by artists.
Ceramic or China marbles are among the oldest marble types known to exist. By the 1870s, ceramic marbles were being mass produced and are hence are less desirable than glass marbles. They are also considered less attractive than their glass counterparts. Extremely old or hand-glazed marbles are still sought by collectors, however. These marbles will often look handmade, with less than perfect shapes and brush stroke marks in the glazing.
An agate marbles is a piece of quartz which is ground down and polished smooth. Much denser than typical glass marbles, agate marbles were popular with children because it was easy to knock glass marbles out of the circle with an agate marble. They can be identified by the alternating dark brown, crimson or even blue bands of color set against a light colored white, yellow or eggshell colored background. Akro Agate Marbles in Akron, Ohio, was the largest producer of Agate marbles until the 1920s.
Modern Art Marbles
Collectors frequently collect more than just rare vintage marbles. Modern art marbles can make up a very expensive portion of a collection. Among the more popular styles are marbles which encapsulate small objects such as spaceships or even much smaller marbles which are called "planets." These art marbles often exhibit explosive use of color within the marble. Because they are handmade, no two modern art marbles are exactly alike, making them rare and sought after items.